All new parents know how tiredness takes over when you have a baby. It’s not just for the ‘lols’ that we joke about mainlining coffee and swap stories of all the mind-boggling WTF things we’ve done while sleep-deprived – such as the time I forgot to wear any trousers to a doctor’s appointment.
But what isn’t talked about, quite so much, is how you cope with that tiredness at home – practically-speaking. Especially if you have to get up for a full day of work the next day.
One option, as discussed on a recent Mumsnet thread, is utilising the spare room or sofa. Of course, this is only possible if there are two parents involved and you have the luxury of two pairs of hands (can we take a moment here to glorify those who do it all single-handed, for they are true heroes).
The mum-to-be who brought up the topic on the forum unlocked many different opinions. Because when it comes to sleep, things really aren’t that simple.
She explained she was 40 weeks pregnant with her first child, and her partner would be taking two weeks leave before returning to work full-time. “He said that after paternity leave has finished, he’ll ‘have to’ sleep in the spare room as he won’t be able to function at work with such broken/lack of sleep,” she wrote.
“I think that is slightly unreasonable as I’ll be knackered, too. How do others deal with night times when their partner goes back to work?”
“A sensible plan”
One said it was a “sensible” plan, particularly because the woman who brought up the issue had also revealed she was planning to breastfeed exclusively. She suggested they could compromise – “weekends he’s in with you and weeknights he sleeps in the spare room” – adding that the mum and baby can sleep in the day, but he can’t at work. “Broken sleep is hell, so if one of you is well rested it does help,” she wrote.
“He does the early feed”
Another option shared by a mum was that the working partner sleeping in the spare room should get up after the first early morning feed with the baby and do a nappy change – then let them play while they get ready to leave for work. “You stay in bed for this,” she said. “He can then pop the baby back into bed before he leaves for work.”
“Split it 50-50”
But others said that it should be split 50/50 – and that a partner leaving the mother to wake through the night and then look after the baby during the day was “selfish”. “My partner, like millions of others, both worked and did a share of night waking,” one person wrote.
... And what does this tell us? That what works for you, might not work for others. I have friends who, on having children, started sleeping apart, even when they hadn’t planned to. Because it can help – as long as you share the uninterrupted nights, too. Especially if you’re co-sleeping with a tiny baby, who grows into a wriggling toddler.
Just this morning, my husband’s alarm went off at 6am after a night spent being kicked in the head by our three-year-old son. He said bleakly that he feels more tired in the mornings now than before he goes to bed each night.
My response, knowing that he has to go off for a stressful day of teaching 30 kids at primary school? “You need to start sleeping on the sofa.”
Because the simple truth is: if it works, it works. And sometimes, that spare room or sofa might just be a life-saver.